A Day's Adventure in Mt. Vernon

At the crossroads of Interstate 57 and 64, lies a city central to Southern Illinois. Mt. Vernon is the perfect stop off the road for a day’s adventure! 


by Victoria Derixson
September 07, 2018

A bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln in front of the Mt. Vernon Appellate Courthouse.

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At the crossroads of Interstate 57 and 64 lies a city central to Southern Illinois. Less than 100 miles from St. Louis, MO, Paducah, KY, and Evansville, IN, Mt. Vernon is the perfect stop off the road for a day’s adventure. Admire world-class art, travel back in time, stand where Lincoln stood, or make a splash. Then, enjoy a local taste of the city. Your Mt. Vernon adventure awaits! 

Cedarhurst Center for the Arts

Front exterior of Cedarhurst Center for the Arts

Recently featured in the Chicago Tribune’s list of “20 Must-See Cultural Attractions in Illinois” and the Illinois Top 200’s list of top 10 museums in IllinoisCedarhurst Center for the Arts is a jewel in the crown of Southern Illinois. Cedarhurst showcases late 19th and early 20th century art gathered by the late collectors John and Eleanor Mitchell. Tour its 90+ acres and you’ll quickly learn what makes Cedarhurst so unique to the Mt. Vernon region. Take a walk around and you’ll discover more than 70 pieces of intriguing art in one of the largest sculpture parks in the Midwest.

If you’re in search of fascinating gallery art, head inside the Mitchell Museum and observe the work of one of America’s greatest artists, Andrew Wyeth. While inside, visit their stunning performance hall and buy a souvenir from the gift shop. If you want to try your own hand at art, you can take a class on ceramics, weaving or photography at the beautiful stained-glass studio in the Schrode Art Center.

Art isn’t just for adults and Cedarhurst knows the importance of interactive learning for children. Inside the Beck Family Center, let your children’s imaginations run wild as they play with a giant Lite Brite, build their own sculpture, read a book around the indoor tree library and engage in lots more family-friendly activities.

The annual Cedarhurst Art & Craft Fair, held the weekend following Labor Day, attracts between 5,000 and 7,000 visitors each year. Hosting more than 100 first-rate artists, musical entertainment, exquisite food vendors and a large children’s play area, the fair is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Make the most of your trip to Cedarhurst and call ahead to schedule a free tour of the entire campus.

Jefferson County Historical Village


Visitors entering the church building at the Jefferson County Historical Village

Less than a mile down the road from Cedarhurst, make a stop at the Jefferson County Historical Village. One step in the village and you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled back to the mid-1800s. Explore a 19th century log home, one-room school, log church, calaboose jail, blacksmith shop, print shop, general store and medical building. During the first weekend in October, the Heritage Festival brings the village to life with basketry, glass bead-making, blacksmithing and weaving demonstrations, bluegrass music, handmade crafts and more. The smell of kettle corn and homemade ham and beans is a strong welcome to fall at the village. 

Appellate Courthouse

Local history doesn’t stop at the Historical Village. Illinois’ 5th District Appellate Courthouse is the only courthouse still in operation where Abraham Lincoln himself once argued a case. In 1859, Lincoln successfully argued a tax case before the Supreme Court, representing the Illinois Central Railroad. Soon-to-be General of the Union Army, George B. McClellan, was present to witness.

In 1888, the courtroom turned into a temporary hospital after a devastating F-4 tornado plowed through Mt. Vernon, killing 30 and destroying more than 300 homes. American Red Cross founder Clara Barton was sent to Mt. Vernon to lead the recovery efforts at the makeshift courthouse hospital.

Call (618) 242-3120 to schedule a tour of the Appellate Courthouse Monday—Friday. Take a peek at the 22-foot ceiling, chandelier, woodwork, judges’ chambers and more. Before you leave, snap a picture with the 9-foot bronze Abraham Lincoln statue on the front lawn.

RARE Chop House


Delectable entree at RARE Chop House in Mt. Vernon

You must be getting hungry after a day of sight-seeing and swimming. Winner of the Illinois Office of Tourism’s “Enjoy Illinois: Delicious Destination” Award, RARE Chop House ensures an exquisite culinary experience. The wine room features more than 1,000 wines from all around the world including New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Argentina, France and bottles from right here in Southern Illinois. You may have a hard time choosing between scallops, ribeye, Chop House filet, mahi mahi, crab cakes, chicken parmesan, fettucine and more. You’ll just have to come back to try more on your next RARE fine dining experience.

King City Books and Coffee

Book display and coffee counter at King City Books

While you’re downtown, check out Mt. Vernon’s local bookstore and coffee shop, King City Books. Stroll in the doors and you’ll be overtaken by the blissful smell of coffee and the cozy atmosphere. Get lost in a New York Times bestseller or novel by a local author. Don’t leave empty-handed–let their friendly baristas whip up an espresso, macchiato, granita, or whichever coffee drink is your favorite.

Farmhouse Bakery & Café

Homemade french silk pie at the Farmhouse Bakery & Cafe

Before you head home, pick up a sweet treat for the road at Farmhouse Bakery & Café. Owned by local Mennonites, you can watch workers bake giant homemade cinnamon rolls and donuts from scratch through the kitchen window. Stop in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the café. Let your sweet tooth indulge in ice cream, espresso drinks, creamy pies, cobbler, cookies, muffins, turnovers, cheesecake and more. You’ll come home ready to brag to your friends about this unique bakery experience.

Time to Explore

Explore the extraordinary in Mt. Vernon, IL, where creativity is redefined. From art and history to exceptional culinary excursions, Mt. Vernon is ready to welcome you to a local adventure! Visit enjoymtvernon.com for the most up-to-date listing of happenings and events.

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